Whatcom road construction season to bring delays, detours

Michele Brown, left, and Sue Rutledge, right, hold No C-Turn Curb signs in protest of Public Works' plan to install a c-curb down Alabama Street from Superior Street to Moore Street, Wednesday, May, 28, 2014, in Bellingham.
Michele Brown, left, and Sue Rutledge, right, hold No C-Turn Curb signs in protest of Public Works' plan to install a c-curb down Alabama Street from Superior Street to Moore Street, Wednesday, May, 28, 2014, in Bellingham. THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Road construction projects this season are about safety, whether of pedestrians crossing Alabama Street, bicyclists on Ohio Street or salmon heading up Anderson Creek.

What travelers in Whatcom County will notice first, though, are the downsides: delays and detours.

Mount Baker Highway

The project that will disrupt traffic the most in the rural county will be the replacement of a culvert with a bridge on Mount Baker Highway at Anderson Creek. The highway will be closed for several weeks between late June and October. The construction schedule will become more specific after a contractor is hired in May.

The creek channel fills with gravel just upstream of the culvert, creating work for maintenance crews and presenting a barrier to spawning fish. The state is under a court injunction to replace, by 2030, culverts such as the one at Anderson Creek that impede salmon and steelhead migration. The Anderson Creek bridge, including culvert removal, will cost $7 million, according to the state Department of Transportation. Traffic will be detoured to Everson Goshen and Smith roads. Local traffic on either side of Anderson Creek will be allowed.

The state will install a compact roundabout at Everson Goshen and Smith.

Downtown Bellingham bridge

In downtown Bellingham, drivers will need to steer clear of the Chestnut-Bay Bridge for up to six months. The bridge will be closed so it can be reinforced to support heavier trucks. The bridge connects Roeder Avenue to downtown and Interstate 5, and it would be a truck route if not for the weight restriction on the 1928 bridge.

While the bridge is closed, traffic will be detoured to Commercial and Holly streets. The project was awarded to Strider Construction, which bid $1.58 million for the work. The schedule hasn’t been set, but the work is expected to begin in May, with the closure starting in June.

Alabama Street

A variety of safety improvements will be built into a 1.8-mile stretch of Alabama Street this summer, but the road will not be closed. Fresh pavement will be laid at night to avoid daytime traffic on one of Bellingham’s busiest commuter routes. Alabama handles up to 20,000 vehicles per day, according to a recent traffic count.

Award Construction of Ferndale will do the work for $3.4 million. The city received a $1.5 million federal safety grant to help cover the cost of the project, which will begin in May.

Roosevelt neighborhood residents protested the Alabama Street project after they learned the plan included a “C curb” median, such as the one between James and King streets on Alabama, that would eliminate left turns onto side streets. The city compromised, deciding to keep a portion of Alabama, from Pacific to Woburn streets, clear for left turns.

In another nod to residents’ concerns, the speed limit on Alabama will be reduced from 35 mph to 30 mph.

Alabama also will get four red-light crosswalks, the first of their kind in Bellingham.

Ohio Street

In the first full year of Bellingham’s 20-year, $20 million bicycle master plan, the city will spend $100,000 to add seven miles of bicycle-friendly features to streets. In July and August, Ohio Street from Cornwall Avenue to Grant Street will be reconfigured to add bike lanes and remove some street parking. A green “bike box” will be painted on Ohio at Cornwall, allowing bicycles to get ahead of cars waiting at the light.

In the county

The Portal Way bridge over Dakota Creek south of Blaine will be closed for several months so the bridge can be upgraded to better withstand earthquakes. County officials say the closure will happen sometime between May and December; they’ll have more details when the schedule is set. A detour will be posted.

Drivers will be asked to find other routes when Hannegan Road and Lake Whatcom Boulevard are repaved. Hannegan will get a fresh layer of asphalt, and the boulevard will be torn up and rebuilt.

Work on Hannegan will extend north from the Bellingham city limit to East Hemmi Road. The $1.8 million repave will begin in late June and is scheduled to end in early August, before the Northwest Washington Fair.

Lake Whatcom Boulevard will be fixed from Cable Street to Strawberry Point at a cost of $650,000, starting in late May and continuing into June. Drivers to and from Sudden Valley will be asked to take Lake Louise Road to avoid delays.

Delays are expected on a busy stretch of Slater Road, between Imhoff and Ferndale roads, that will be widened this summer. A center turn lane will be added as part of this $2.2 million project.

Updates on this and other county road projects will be posted at whatcomcounty.us/334/Road-Bridge-Projects. The page includes links to state and city of Bellingham projects.

Other work


Eliza Avenue

: Crews will widen Eliza from Westerly to Kellogg roads, adding a sidewalk on the west side of Eliza. A section of Kellogg and Eliza will be repaved. Cost: $750,000. Duration: Late June to early September.


Kendall roundabout

: This project will

improve safety

at the triangular intersection of Mount Baker Highway and Kendall Road. $2.8 million. July to Labor Day.


McLeod Road

: This road off Meridian Street near Interstate 5 will be closed to replace the culvert over Baker Creek. The site is next to the Best Western Heritage Inn just south of Telegraph Road. $300,000. Mid-July to September or October.



: Fifth Street will be closed north of Front Street for intersection and street improvements. $865,000. Monday, May 4, to June.

• Bridge painting: The state will finish repainting the two Nooksack River bridges

on I-5

. $4.2 million for this two-year job. The work will take a few months and starts on May 11. Also, the county will oversee a fresh coat of paint on the Nooksack River bridge

on Slater

. One lane on the bridge will be closed for part of the project. $1.7 million. May to July.

Painting bridges over a river is expensive, DOT officials said, because crews are required to prevent all old paint and other materials from falling into the water. Also, ventilation systems are required to keep workers safe.